In Exile in Guyville: How a Punk Rock Redneck Faggot Texan Moved to West Hollywood and Refused to Be Shiny and Happy, author Dave White shares the somewhat uneasy transition he went through moving from Dallas to West Hollywood. While plugging away as a freelance movie writer for random publications, White recounts how difficult his acclimation proved to be. Throw in a serious health scare, and the story is a funny tale of how a guy with a jaundiced view of Los Angeles becomes an Angelino himself.
When I say White’s view of L.A. is jaundiced, it’s only because he views his new surroundings with a healthy dose of suspicion. It’s a testament to his love for his partner, that he’s willing to move to the West Coast, when it appeared to be so difficult initially. But as a reader, I’m fine with his snarky attitude because it means his book his hilarious. I discovered him back in 2006 when he wrote pop culture articles for The Advocate – it’s worth your time to seek his articles out in The Advocate‘s archives – trust me, they’re great…
Like a post-millenium Jane Austen or Edith Wharton, White skewers his society around him – in particular he unleashes some savage but witty lobs at inconsiderate or rude people he encounters, like an entitled ass of a man who bullied a teeanged parking lot attendant because he lost his ticket or dimwitted pedestrians who jay walk in front of his car. And while he’s sarcastic, he isn’t mean – at least not to those who don’t deserve it; case in point, former MASH actress Sally Kellerman and her one-woman show is featured in the book, and instead of volleying predictable and cheap jokes at her expense, he writes of her hold on the audience more – like a cultural anthropologist, he examines the reaction of members of the audience – the various types and demographics, as well as the level of their appreciation of Kellerman. In fact, no matter how b-listy the celebrities are, he never goes for that gag – which is admirable and shows just how smart a writer White really is.
And even though the work is primarily humorous, there is heart in Exile in Guyville – primarily in the relationship between the author and his partner – a funny pair who trade quips and barbs like a well-oiled comedy duo – think a gay Burns and Allen or Sonny and Cher; neither stays the butt or the straight man (no pun intended) for too long, and each gets in a good dig and a fine one-liner. And when he writes of his health scare, he does so with a grumpy humor and a charming gracelessness – he refuses to be a martyr but doesn’t dissolve into maudlin self-pity.
Because Exile in Guyville is such a strong memoir, it seems a bit disappointing that White hasn’t followed up with another; he’s probably busy, working as a film critic – his review of the Barbra Streisand vehicle The Guilt Trip is one of the best movie reviews I’ve ever read (though it did make me sad to read that his mom died – she appears in Exile in Guyville) – but a sequel to Exile would be a welcome return to White and how life – as well as L.A. – has been treating him since the publication of his book.